Is There a Link Between Urinary and Bowel Incontinence?


Bladder and bowel incontinence conditions are prevalent yet uncommonly discussed medical issues. These concerns frequently cause an array of emotional, social, psychological, and physical concerns. Incontinence impacts a considerable number of individuals across the United States and may inhibit a person’s way of life in a number of manners. Patients could have urinary or fecal incontinence, or even a combination of both, which could differ in degree of dysfunction and severity. Most people find talking about bladder or fecal incontinence highly uncomfortable, even when it is with a medical professional, resulting in a barrier to treatment for many individuals.

Even infrequent incidences of incontinence might hinder a patient's desire to participate in activities outside of the home. The notion of being away from home for too long or needing to rush to the bathroom at any given moment prevents many from enjoying a normal standard of living. If you or someone you love experiences minor to severe urinary or fecal incontinence (or a combination of both), please realize that you are not the only one. There are modern treatments available to help you regain urinary and bowel control and enhance your quality of life.

Unexpected bowel or bladder leakage is a major issue for a number of adults in Denver, CO. The highly trained gastrointestinal (GI) specialists at Colorado Gastroenterology provide individualized treatment for incontinence conditions, including a state-of-the-art option referred to as sacral neuromodulation (SNM). Get in touch with our digestive health experts as soon as possible to learn more about bladder and fecal incontinence and to review the ideal treatment option for you.

What causes bladder control issues?

Defined as the loss of bladder or urinary control, urinary incontinence makes people accidentally pass urine. It involves a wide spectrum of problems, like urgency incontinence or overactive bladder (OAB), urinary retention, stress incontinence, and overflow incontinence. The probability of experiencing this problem increases for those over the age of 50, although adults of all ages can develop the condition. In fact, the National Association for Continence has reported that over 25 million people in the United States experience urinary incontinence every day. Some of the common causes of bladder incontinence are:

  • Pregnancy
  • Trauma from childbirth
  • Damage to the pelvic muscles
  • Defects in normal anatomy
  • Being overweight
  • Previous surgery
  • Ongoing constipation
  • Menopause
  • Damage to the nerves
  • Certain medications
  • Infection in the pelvic organs
  • Caffeine consumption

What causes bowel control issues?

While a lot of Denver, CO individuals find it humiliating to ask for help with bladder incontinence, problems with bowel leakage are often even more awkward to disclose. Bowel dysfunction, or lacking the ability to control bowel movements, can include anything from a small amount of bowel leakage to a complete loss of bowel control. Studies show that approximately 1.8 – 18% of the U.S. population experiences bowel incontinence, per the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. The causes of bowel incontinence include:

  • Prolapse of the rectum
  • Irritable bowel diseases
  • Birth trauma
  • Surgery
  • Damage to the nerves
  • Anatomical defects
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Excessive laxative use
  • Central nervous system (CNS) conditions
  • Muscle weakness due to age

Are bladder incontinence and bowel incontinence related conditions?

Fecal and urinary incontinence impacts twice the amount of women compared to men. Though they may arise singularly or in tandem, there is a physiological connection between these medical concerns. The brain and muscles responsible for bladder and bowel control work together to manage urinary and fecal capabilities. If neural pathways involving the brain and these muscles become impaired, varied levels of incontinence could develop. Essentially, both urinary and fecal incontinence could occur if the brain does not transmit the proper signals to the muscles that control bladder and bowel tasks.

Are there effective incontinence treatment options?

Treatment for improving urinary and fecal incontinence generally initiates with conservative therapies, like pelvic floor exercises, medications, or modifying diet and fluid intake. Such an approach may include increasing fiber in daily nutritional intake, or lowering caffeine consumption and additional products that carry diuretic properties. When these solutions do not prove effective, or individuals are not ideal candidates for conservative solutions or surgical treatment options, the GI specialists at Colorado Gastroenterology might recommend sacral neuromodulation therapy. Though a number of therapeutic options are in use for managing bladder incontinence, far fewer options exist for addressing fecal incontinence, outside of sacral neuromodulation therapy.

What should you know about sacral neuromodulation therapy?

Sacral neuromodulation therapy at Colorado Gastroenterology is a minimally invasive treatment for incontinence that involves the internal placement of a small rechargeable stimulator, much like a pacemaker. The stimulator is implanted in the area of the sacral nerve in the tailbone (coccyx), near the upper region of the gluteus muscles, or buttocks. Permitted for people 18 or older, sacral neuromodulation is largely advised by the American Society of Gastroenterology and the American Society of Colorectal Surgeons (after a conservative approach). This option provides an extended therapeutic approach that has offered treatment success for a high percentage of individuals. Furthermore, patients are able to try it ahead of time to learn if it works for them.

How does sacral neuromodulation work?

Individuals who are candidates for sacral neuromodulation therapy commonly receive a 7 to 14-day trial phase to start the therapeutic process. The sacral neurostimulator device is then put into place by way of a minor, minimally invasive surgery conducted by one of our Denver, CO gastroenterologists. SNM is a restorative approach that helps to normalize pelvic floor function by facilitating communication among the brain and the muscles responsible for bladder and bowel activities. The sacral neurostimulator is recharged by the patient every 2 – 4 weeks by way of an external device and requires only a short period of time to recharge. The majority of SNM patients generally deem the process of recharging the device to be simple and efficient overall.

Is SNM an effective way to manage incontinence?

Colorado Gastroenterology is excited to offer sacral neuromodulation therapy as a safe, effective, and long-lasting solution for addressing bladder or fecal incontinence. Sacral neuromodulation is clinically proven to treat conditions that include overactive bladder, urinary retention, urinary incontinence, and bowel incontinence. Studies reveal that SNM treatment produces a high rate of patient satisfaction and treatment success for both bladder and bowel incontinence factors, and also carries a very high safety profile. SNM has proven effective in individuals for whom a conservative approach to therapy was ineffective and can allow for substantial improvements in their quality of living. Additionally, it is linked to a considerably lower frequency of incontinence episodes.

Get expert incontinence treatment in Denver, CO

The use of SNM therapy has been paramount in providing a less invasive way to control bladder and bowel incontinence, enhancing the living standard of adults affected by these concerns. At Colorado Gastroenterology, we realize the humiliation and concerns adults have surrounding bladder and bowel incontinence. Our experienced GI doctors are pleased to offer personalized options and confidential consultations to treat incontinence issues with the utmost care, respect, and clinical excellence. To learn if you might be a candidate for sacral neuromodulation therapy, get in touch with our practice in Denver, CO today to book a consultation with a GI physician.